Genesis 20–23: Promise & Faith

Read the Bible in 2023 ◊ Week 6: Monday

Then Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw, and behold, there was a ram after it had been caught in the thicket by its horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. And Abraham called the name of that place Yahweh Will Provide, as it is said this day, “In the mount of Yahweh it will be provided.”
Genesis 22:13–14 LSB

In today’s Bible reading, Genesis 20–23, There are numerous events of Abraham’s life recorded in these chapters: Abraham falls back into the same pattern of deceit with Abimilech he used with Pharaoh, he grieves over the expulsion of his son Ishmael, and he also knows loss and grief when his wife, Sarah, dies.

The two most significant events in these chapters, however, in Genesis 21 and 22.

Now Yahweh visited Sarah as He had said, and Yahweh did for Sarah as He had promised. So Sarah conceived and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the appointed time of which God had spoken to him. And Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore to him, Isaac.
Genesis 21:1–39 LSB

Yahweh did for Sarah as He had promised. What a world of joy is in that sentence! 25 years after God told Abraham to leave Ur and promised to make him a great nation (cf. Genesis 12:1–4) Abraham sees the fulfillment of God’s promise in the birth of his and Sarah’s son, Isaac, born when Abraham is 100 years old.

In Genesis 22, Abraham undergoes his great test of faith when God commands Abraham to offer up his son, your only one, whom you love, Isaac, as a burnt offering.

Remember the primary rule of interpreting Scripture is that Scripture is to interpret Scripture. That’s always our starting point when we want to understand Scripture: we look to the rest of Scripture to teach us. This principle was hammered out during the Reformation. R. C. Sproul explains:

“The primary rule of hermeneutics [the science of interpretation] was called “the analogy of faith.” The analogy of faith is the rule that Scripture is to interpret Scripture: Sacra Scriptura sui ipsius interpres: (Sacred Scripture is its own interpreter). This means quite simply, that no part of Scripture can be interpreted in such a way to render it in conflict with what is clearly taught elsewhere in Scripture.”1

My pastor Mike Braun used to compare it to an inverted triangle: a verse or passage at the tip of the point, with all the rest of Scripture above it, bringing understanding to that verse or passage.

First of all, in the immediate context, when Abraham, Isaac, and his servants arrive in Moriah:

And Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there; and we will worship, and we will return to you.”
Genesis 22:5 LSB

Abraham says we will return to you. He believed he and Isaac were both going to be coming back. Derek Kidner writes,

“The assurance that Isaac as well as Abraham would come again from the sacrifice was no empty phrase: it was Abraham’s full conviction, on the ground that ‘in Isaac shall thy seed be called’ (21:12). Hebrews 11:17–19 reveals that he was expecting Isaac to be resurrected; henceforth he sould regard him as given back from the dead.”2

There are several New Testament passages that refer to the events of Genesis 20–23. Two of these are Galatians 4:21–31, when Paul explains the significance of Abraham’s two sons, and Hebrews 11:8–12, 17–19, which recounts Abraham’s faith in leaving Ur, the birth of Isaac, and when Abraham offered up Isaac.

This is what Hebrews 11 says about Abraham’s offering of Isaac:

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only son, to whom it was said, “IN ISAAC YOUR SEED SHALL BE CALLED.” He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he also received him back.
Hebrews 11:17–19 LSB

Abraham believed God when God had told him that God’s covenant would be with his descendants through Isaac. When God told him to offer up Isaac, Abraham did not cease to believe God, but considered that God was able to raise him from the dead. He believed God’s promise.

Then they came to the place of which God had told him; and Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood and bound his son Isaac and put him on the altar, on top of the wood. And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of Yahweh called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” And He said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the boy, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only one, from Me.”
Then Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw, and behold, there was a ram after it had been caught in the thicket by its horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. And Abraham called the name of that place Yahweh Will Provide, as it is said this day, “In the mount of Yahweh it will be provided.”
Genesis 22:9–14 LSB

Elsewhere Scripture sheds light on the location of Moriah.

Then Solomon began to build the house of Yahweh in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where Yahweh had appeared to his father David, at the place that David had prepared on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.
2 Chronicles 3:1 LSB

Kidner writes,

“Moriah reappears only in 2 Chronicles 3:1, where it is identified as the place where God halted the plague of Jerusalem [the reference to David] and where Solomon built the Temple. In New Testament terms, this is the vicinity of Calvary.”3

2000 years later, on Calvary, God provided His Son, His only Son, whom He loves, as a sacrifice for us.

Then the angel of Yahweh called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, “By Myself I have sworn, declares Yahweh, because you have done this thing and have not spared your son, your only one, indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of his enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have listened to My voice.”
Genesis 22:15–18 LSB

Kent Hughes writes:

“And now God has sworn an oath by himself that every promise would come to pass. Again the writer of Hebrews explains the weight of God’s actions:”

For when God made the promise to Abraham, since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying, “I WILL GREATLY BLESS YOU AND I WILL GREATLY MULTIPLY YOU.” And so, having patiently waited, he obtained the promise.
Hebrews 6:13–15 LSB

“The great encouragement is God always keeps his word. He keeps every word—every promise of God is kept. God has sworn—he keeps his promises. He has made a unilateral covenant…

“From here on, it is only necessary to refer back to this oath to say all that needs to be said about the promises of God.”4

And so the writer of Hebrews, having quoted God’s promise and oath to Abraham in Genesis 22, spells out what this means for us, the heirs of the promise.

For men swear by one greater than themselves, and with them an oath given as confirmation is an end of every dispute. In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and confirmed and one which enters within the veil, where a forerunner has entered for us⁠—Jesus, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.
Hebrews 6:16–20 LSB

A. M. Stibbs,

“So we (note the present personal reference) are meant to gain thereby strong encouragement (v. 18); for we have a double ground of confidence, in God the Promiser who gives us His word and in God the Guarantor who confirms it by His oath.”

Hebrews 11 opens with these words:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval.
Hebrews 11:1–2 LSB

Abraham is named twice in Hebrews 11 as one of the great examples of faith. May God enable us to believe and trust Him as Abraham did, taking hold of our sure and certain hope.

Silvesterzug Laterne: Bk muc. (CC BY-SA 4.0).
The ram on the mountains of Moriah, Jan van’t HoffGospel ImagesGenesis 22:13.
Thomas Vautrollier’s printers mark: Printers’ Marks: A Chapter in the History of Typography by W. Roberts: Project Gutenberg. This is the printer’s mark of Thomas Vautrollier, a Huguenot refugee to England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, who became one of two dominant printer-publishers of Reformed material there. (See Print, patronage, and the reception of continental reform: 1521-1603.). The Latin phrase anchora spei means anchor of hope.  Reaching down from heaven is a hand firmly gripping the anchor.
1R. C. Sproul, Knowing Scripture (InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1977) 46. I highly recommend this book. It will really help you with your Bible study. It’s short, readable, and easy to understand.
2,3Derek Kidner, Genesis (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1967) 143, 143.
4R. Kent Hughes, Genesis: Beginning & Blessing (Crossway Books, Wheaton IL: 2004) 305.

I’m using Michael Coley’s Bible reading plan (one page PDF to print) to read through the Bible in 2023. Each day my posts are on different books because he divides Bible readings into seven categories, one for each day of the week: Epistles, The Law, History, Psalms, Poetry, Prophecy and Gospels. There’s more information on his plan and other ones at Read the Bible in 2023.

Copyright ©2021–2023 Iwana Carpenter

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